Just Tumbling Along…..

Tumbleweeds are a late summer to late winter, western Kansas, eastern Colorado crop. There are tumbleweeds in other parts of the southwest, western Oklahoma and Texas, all over Arizona and New Mexico. However, when I think of tumbleweeds I see them tumbling across highways and byways on my way to Colorado through western Kansas.

I really like tumbleweeds. They roll along, blowing wherever the wind takes them. They congregate along a fence line, until the wind detaches them one by one and they roll on to dryer pastures. It is a meditation to watch, romantic, even.

“A tumbleweed is a structural part of the above-ground anatomy of a number of species of plants, a diaspore that, once it is mature and dry, detaches from its root or stem, and tumbles away in the wind. In most such species the tumbleweed is in effect the entire plant apart from the root system, but in other plants a hollow fruit or an inflorescence might serve the function. Tumbleweed species occur most commonly in steppe and arid ecologies, where frequent wind and the open environment permit rolling without prohibitive obstruction.” Wikipedia

Grandma Smith brought a large tumbleweed back to Mom one November. She had been out to western Kansas for the annual Smith Family pheasant and quail hunting trek with grandpa, uncles, and male cousins over the age of 12. Mom spray painted the tumbleweed silver, put a lot of different sized blue Christmas bulbs inside it and hung it up. Our Christmas tumbleweed hung in the front of the large picture window in the front room for many years. I can see it hanging there all silver and blue representing the sparkle of the holidays.Tumbleweed Christmas

I googled tumbleweed Christmas and found a really close version of what it looked like. Apparently, the Scott’s like Christmas tumbleweeds, too. There were also many other ways to dress up a tumbleweed. A body could order tumbleweed from a website in Arizona. I am going to go on a tumbleweed finding adventure myself this November.

I’ll be rolling along, humming the Tumbleweed Song……..

See them tumbling down

Pledging their love to the ground

Lonely but free I’ll be found

Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds


Cares of the past are behind

Nowhere to go but I’ll find

Just where the trail will wind

Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds


I know when night has gone

That a new world’s born at dawn

I’ll keep rolling along

Deep in my heart there’s a song

Here on the range I belong

Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds


I know when night has gone

That a new world’s born at dawn

I’ll keep rolling along

Deep in my heart is a song

Here on the range I belong

Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds

                                    Sons of the Pioneers








©2016 Susan Kendall. All rights reserved


High Plains Driftin’…..

The plains of western Kansas and high plains of eastern Colorado are beautiful in all seasons. The undulating landscape reaches as far as the eye can see, to where the earth meets the sky. There are fields of corn, milo, and sunflowers ready to be harvested in late summer. In late fall, summer crops are harvested, winter wheat is planted, hunters are walking the fields and tumbleweeds are blowing in the wind. Winter brings cold weather, blowing snow, fields lying fallow, ready and waiting for growing again. The ground is plowed and cultivated in late winter and early spring, ready to plant summer crops once again.

Colors change, fields are green, yellow, sometimes red, orange, brown, gray. Different shades of blue cross the skies, as white, grey and, occasionally, black clouds, float, swirl, skitter or rotate. No matter the season, there are cattle grazing, windmills catching the wind, deer in the fields at dusk and dawn and signs advertising places of interest to visit.

The flattest land past Colby on I-70 is several miles east and 20 some miles west of the Colorado border. Even as a child, I never saw a whole lot of pancake flatland whizzing by my window. I traveled in the backseat of my parents Mercury convertible or my grandfather’s latest Lincoln Mercury or Oldsmobile deluxe car boat, driving west to Colorado on Highway 24, crossing through western Kansas, 85-90 miles an hour.

My dad once hit 100 miles an hour barreling through western Kansas on a Friday night to spend two days in a cabin before returning to Topeka on Sunday night.  I roused enough to hear my mother exclaim, “James, you are going 100 miles an hour!” I went back to sleep, knowing they had it all under control. In retrospect, a straight, fairly even, road was probably a good thing at 100 mph! Especially if the road was two-lane US Highway 24 back in the early 1950’s.

The summer I was six, my parents and grandparents vacationed with the four of us, aged 2-6, for one magical week in Colorado. We took turns riding with grandma and grandpa. During my turn, we crossed the Colorado border. Grandma Smith described the first sight of the mountains; low lying clouds would develop dark peak shapes. Back then, the Rocky Mountain Front Range could be seen from Limon, Colorado. Southwest of Limon, Pike’s Peak was visible from the plains.

We walked on the bridge spanning the Royal Gorge near Canon City. Let’s say I walked, my brother climbed onto the outside of the railing and hung there. My mother was rendered speechless. My father was galvanized into stretching his legs into a really long stride and plucked my brother out of danger.

In Colorado Springs, we clambered all over Garden of the Gods and drove up Pikes Peak. In Estes Park, we stayed in a cabin on Devil’s Gulch Road, caught fish in a family friendly, commercial fishpond and rode Popcorn, the same Shetland pony my mother rode on when she was a little girl.

Last September, the memories from many trips to Colorado through the years were with me, as Mike and I made our way west of Denver, over Berthoud Pass, through Winter Park and Granby to Grand Lake, the southern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. The trip was wonderful and helped us traverse the next six months.

©2016 Susan Kendall. All rights reserved


Rocky Mountain High ……………..

Spending the night somewhere in southwestern Kansas was inevitable.  Experienced from many trips to Colorado by a variety of routes I knew my overnight options in the southeastern part of the state would be thin. My plan was to spend the night in Garden City. I was familiar with one large motel on the highway into town.

The torrential downpour following the spectacular thunderstorm was not in my plan. The motel was filled. The evening motel clerk took pity upon my pathetic dripping wet self and called another motel for me. There was one room left. They would save it for me. Traipsing back out into the univinting elements I headed off with my written instructions. The vintage motor lodge was near downtown with a tiny full parking lot.  Parking on a side street, I opened the door and stepped out into swirling water halfway up to my knees. Grabbing my overnight bag, I sloshed through to the motel office. The hot bubble bath was heaven and sleep came easily.

The next morning the air was cool, clean and fresh. The sky was a wonderful shade of blue. Sticking my book-on-cassette into the tape player, I continued my adventure. Timing was great. I drove into the mountains mid-afternoon. Locating the main house and checking-in area, I received my instructions and keys. While the owner delivered my wood, I unloaded the car. After my brief tour of the pump house,  the springhouse and brand new outhouse, I was left alone to enjoy my stay.

There was a kerosene lamp on the little table, I opted for the battery operated Coleman lantern as the sun began to set behind the mountains. Starting a fire in the wood stove, I fixed an easy supper, heated water to wash my face, put on my flannel jammies and jumped into bed with a book. That night I again slept the sleep of the exhausted.

Waking up without an alarm clock is a luxury. Waking up to only take care of me was an unheard of phenomenon. The cabin was cold and I snuggled in bed until I was too hungry to wait anymore. I jumped up and started the fire. Using my old camp coffee pot I made coffee on the Coleman stove. Jumping back into bed I waited for the room to warm and coffee to perk. My breakfasts during the week were bacon and eggs, pancakes, biscuits and gravy or oatmeal. I made pizza, muffins, corn bread, meatloaf, baked chicken and a cake in the oven of the wood burning cook stove.

On the fourth of July the ranch family and the “dudes” gathered around a campfire for dinner and fireworks. During the day I took walks across the mountain meadow and checked out the farm or lay out on the fold up outdoor lounger I brought from home. One day in the middle of the week I drove out of the wilderness area into Gunnison and up to Crested Butte. I arrived during the summer wildflower festival and had a great time wandering through the town, eating ice cream and looking over all the flowers and arts and craft displays.  

The week I spent at the Quarter-Circle Circle Ranch was the real beginning of the rest of my life. The road trip to a remote area and taking care of myself with no running water, electricity and indoor plumbing set a new standard for how I wanted to live. The lessons learned were invaluable for my graduate school years three states away from my family support system.

My journey to find myself and carve out my own slice of life had begun………………………..

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Ferris Wheels, Harley Davidson’s and Wood Burning Cook Stoves……

More years ago than I can remember right now, I coordinated a day of volunteer continuing education workshops. During one of the workshops we were asked to make a list of one hundred things we wanted to do. Not a “to do” list for house hold chores or work tasks; a list of activities or experiences just for ourselves.

I have kept a running list of one hundred things ever since. Depending upon circumstances and what is happening in my life I am able to cross through an activity on my list or add another. When traveling for business or pleasure I research the destination area and make a list of things I want to do while there.  Sometimes those things I want to accomplish are achieved, other times they are put on the “one hundred” list to be completed at a later date. My journals are filled with lists of things I want to see, do, accomplish and experience this year, next year or the proverbial “someday.”

Making lists kept me sane while preparing for vacations, trips, remodeling or just needing to make time for myself. During first few years of singleness after 25 years of being part of a couple, the list was varied and eclectic. When I think back on that list I think the experiences were mostly about overcoming some fears I might have been harboring.

My world had become very finite, which led to a heightening of my fears.  These fears did not necessarily mean I did not do new things, I was just extremely careful when, where, why and how I let myself go and sometimes anxiety interfered with my enjoyment of the activity. Let’s just say when I was younger I lived life a little larger than I did in my mid forties.

Back to the top three things on my list after making the decision to experience new things for me… riding a Ferris Wheel, riding on a Harley Davidson motorcycle and taking a trip all by myself. I rode the Ferris wheel at the carnival in conjunction with the annual Mexican Fiesta. It felt good and I loved the rush of air on the down cycle of the wheel.

Saving my extra pennies I scraped together a deposit on a rustic cabin at the Quarter-Circle Circle Ranch, 45 miles from Gunnison, CO, near the La Garita Wilderness. The place was so remote they do not have phone service. You haul water from the spring, every day they drop off wood for the cook stove, light is from a battery operated lamp and there is no indoor plumbing.  It sounded perfect! Baking in a wood burning cook stove was something I always wanted to do.

I packed the car with any camping equipment I thought I might need. Since waiting for the cook stove to burn enough wood for my morning coffee did not sound appealing, I took along a Coleman stove. My supply boxes included biscuit mix, canned goods, frozen beef, paper towels, matches….  I would stop in Poncha Springs for my perishables.  I was ready.

Stay tuned………….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved



Good, Bad, Ugly

The long weekend was very satisfying. I had a lot of quality time with friends and family. Jami and I were able to connect and make progress on AuroraNightOut. My political junkie heart was warm from good conversation with Max and Leslie. Sister and sibling breakfasts were easy and relaxed. Children pulled off a great party. Grandchildren were grand. Friends were present and a good time was had by all.

Late Monday afternoon I spent time with Aunt Norma in her senior resident apartment. We laughed and talked. I enjoyed our time together. I have been thinking about retirement abodes and was impressed with her living quarters and building. Keri is only several miles away.

Tuesday morning we set out for home. Sam was tired of his car seat and not eating very well either.  We traveled as fast as the law allowed and were trying to keep our stops to a minimum. About ¾’s of the way through the trip we stopped to give Sam his milk cup. I decided to run in to a convenience truck stop. Somehow my T-Mobile G2 Android phone fell to the ground at the curb in front of the store. Not realizing the loss, I went on in and bought chips and soda for Sam’s mom and me. Sam and his mom pulled down to the end of the store’s front concrete riser.

My daughter saw a trucker come out and pick up something at the curb. She realized it was my pink gel-covered phone. The trucker turned and went back into the store. When I came out she rolled her window down and asked me if I got my phone. She indicated that a man had picked it up and taken it in the store. I went back in one door and the trucker came out the other. His hands were empty.

He did not turn in the phone and he disappeared into one of the half a dozen semi’s parked in the vicinity. After my daughter described him to me, I remembered him from inside the store. She and I were a little stunned he had not turned the phone in. She did not understand why he would have looked down at the phone, pick it up, shake his head and go back into the store if he was not going to turn it in. Good questions. I do not know the answers. I do know the truckers in my family would have turned the phone in; my dad, my uncle, my cousins, my dad’s trucker friends.

The next few hours were kind of a mini-nightmare. I had T-Mobile Customer Care and then the insurance company on the phone in the rolling hills of eastern Iowa where calls are dropped in every valley. Service was immediately terminated. I kept getting the automated insurance information. It took awhile to figure out I needed a police report, officer name and badge number. Really? In eastern Iowa? Not a town in sight?

Thirty minutes later we found the right sheriff’s department and the dispatcher listened to our story and called the sheriff’s deputy on the radio. He had her take our name and number and said he would call me back. We could proceed on to our homes. A big sigh of relief because by this time we were sitting at the I- 80 Illinois Welcome Center parking lot looking at the Mississippi and did not want to turn around and go back an hour.

We arrived home several hours later than previously expected. It is now five days later and I am still not completely over the experience.  My “new” phone did not arrive until three days later.My contact numbers are missing. I had wonderful pictures of grandchildren, Mr. K, friends, family. I have to set up email, calendar, twitter, FaceBook again.

I am grateful we are safe and home. The memories of the visit are still warm and wonderful. I know in the grand scheme of life we are lucky the phone is all we lost. I am not sure exactly why I feel something else was lost, I just know I do……………….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Busy Days……….

Hayley and her parents stopped by so Hayley could stay with Grandma and Sam for awhile. Sam and Hayley played side by side with Sam’s toys. Aunt Leslie had to go pick up milk at the dairy store. Hayley went along to see the cows and Sam took a nap.

Alice, Hayley and their mom came over to Aunt Leslie’s house after school. We talked and played and spent time together. They went home for dinner.

Sam and his mom went to dinner at the home of one of her close friends.

I dressed and went out with my friends of almost 55 years. Dinner was wonderful. The conversation was great. We sat and talked for several hours and then we went back to my sister’s home and talked until about 11:30 PM. We reminisced about school, friends, families, first puffs of cigarettes. Sam and his mom came home. He slept through the admiration party by all of the grandmas in the room.

Saturday morning found me with my three daughters and three of my granddaughters in a Kansas City suburb at a baby shower for one of the nieces from my first marriage. Their mother and I continue to be sisters-in-law in both deed and action. My niece was so cute with her baby bump and my other niece is obviously delighted with becoming an aunt. The other niece is engaged and her wedding will be in August. The save the date magnet is on my refrigerator. Hmmmm…..might be a really interesting story day.

Saturday afternoon we were at grandson Jacob and White Storm’s District Pinewood Derby contest. I am happy to report, White Storm came in 7th out of 105 contestants. Sam, his mother and I gave Alice and Kahlan a ride back to Topeka for a child care gig, while Peter, Jacob, Hayley and their mothers slumber partied in Olathe. After the derby, my son-in-law was somewhere, hiding out, I am sure.

Sam and his mom were off to another friend’s home while grandma was doing the town with her sisters.

Stay tuned for more adventures on the road with Lilypad and Co……….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


First Morning………

My sister and brother are very early risers. When visiting them I like to get up as early as I can make myself. We drink coffee, watch Morning Joe and flip news channels whenever Pat Buchanan is more than we can handle. These are my political junkie siblings and I love it.

Leslie had timed her workout session to be back in the house to make breakfast by 7:30. She chatted briefly and then left. Max and I kept on talking about tea parties, odd politician behavior and our take on the world today. Leslie showed back up in about three minutes. We looked up expectantly wondering what she had forgotten.

She stood behind her chair for a moment before speaking. She said she had decided not to work out this morning and back into Sam’s mom’s car instead. We both looked at each other and then back to her. Our stunned silence turned to silent sympathy.  The story gets better. Her really cool jeep has a back up camera and beeper. She says the camera lens was dirty and she ignores the beeper because it always beeps when she backs out of the garage.

She said the damage seemed to be contained to the license plate holder and sat down to wait for Sam and his mom to appear. Kudos to my daughter; she took her aunt’s morning wake-up news very well.  First there was disbelief “you’re kidding, right”, then acceptance as Leslie handed her pieces of the broken license plate, followed by fairly cheerful resignation after an examination revealed nothing more than a scratch or two under the license plate.

Our favorite part was the backup camera and beeper. Of course, there is the fact that Max and I waved goodbye and didn’t say a word. We were really grateful we were not the ones to provide the first fender bender to the new Jeep, no matter how light the damage.

Leslie established an 18 month statute of limitations on mentioning this new entry in family lore and legend.  Judging the action on the subject the rest of the weekend she was probably correct. We do love to joke and tease and poke about each other’s miscalculations. What can I say, except some of my best personal insights have come from laser sharp observations made by one of my siblings?

Stay tuned for more tales from the demolition derby zone………

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Lilypad on the road……….

We drove to Kansas several days later than expected.  Sam’s mom had a cold and Sam’s ear infection was back so we skipped the first two days of the trip which had included a visit to Allen Field house on the University of Kansas campus to watch the KU Men’s basketball team beat Texas A&M. Every year I think I will get to be Aunt Margie’s escort to at least one game. Sigh. Maybe next year.

Sister Leslie had broccoli and chicken or pork rice casseroles ready for us when we arrived. I had the chicken with mushrooms option. YUM! Sam played hard to get with his great-aunt and great-uncle. His latest trick is winking his eyes closed like he is hiding himself. Kind of like my little woodchuck. It took at least 10 minutes of sidling around and clutching his mom or my legs before he warmed up and made himself at home.  The lord of this manor is Mr. Knightley, the cat. Sam was on the floor with Mr. K and his toys almost immediately.

Sister Penny is very busy at her work these days. She was busy Thursday rearranging her schedule for the weekend festivities because she thought we were not coming for another month or so. I guess she thought there were two March’s this year.  She wanted to meet us for breakfast this morning, early she said, 8 – 8:30. She called later on and said maybe 7:30 would be better. Okay, we were game. She called again around 7 this morning and said to slow down our departure because she was just up. I love Penny!  Sam, his mother and I squeezed into Leslie’s 2011 Jeep, a REALLY nice ride, and stopped by for Jami.  A really good breakfast was had by all at IHOP on Wanamaker Road in Topeka.

Tonight is dinner with two really dear friends. We first met 55 years ago this upcoming September in the afternoon kindergarten class at Oakland Grade School. We share March birthdays and celebrate together as often as we can. We have been through marriages, divorces, miscarriages, children, grandchildren, parent deaths …………

Come with me the next few days as we follow the proverbial Kansas yellow brick road………

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Taming the Travel Tiger……..

Driving home yesterday was an exercise in patience and self-control. There is not a really good travel route from our house to Sam’s condo which is up north about five blocks from Lake Michigan. The Touhy Avenue entrance ramp onto southbound I-294 is an interesting configuration. Construction work and west bound lane closures under the I-294 overpass makes for a really frustrating section of road at 6 PM on a workday.

The back-up from the Touhy Ave and River Road traffic signal was almost back to the Dee Road and Touhy Ave corner. I waited patiently in my lane, silently watching right lane drivers inching towards our lane. They had warning regarding their lane ending and yet they still drove right up to the move left arrow sign.

The driver in front of me was not having any of the “every other car” narrowing down to one lane. He and his neighbor car played chicken, with a lot of horn honking, while I tried to keep a safe distance and not allow three cars into the space. My efforts were successful; I only let two cars in front of me.  And, I only missed the next traffic light by one car. Sigh.

After negotiating the traffic onto the expressway I found myself thinking the traffic wasn’t all that bad and wondered when I had become inured to the traffic back-ups and parking lot mentality of rush hour in very large metropolitan areas.

The first time we lived in Illinois I barely drove east of First Avenue. I white-knuckled a Brownie Field trip to the Merchandise Mart in Chicago my first year. Coming out of the parking garage onto Wacker Drive, left onto I-90/94 south, right across all lanes of traffic to the I-55 exit was my initiation into heavy traffic driving. I did not drive anywhere near the Chicago Loop again for a very long time.

Several years later my Dad made me drive his car, pulling a pop-up camper through Cleveland during rush hour in the rain. As we got closer to Boston I was again driving the car and camper on I-90 to I-95/Rt128 to Rt. 28 south to Randolph around 5 PM. One year I was in Boston and had to drive from Massachusetts General Hospital to a south suburb. There were twists and turns to get on the Interstate at 5 PM and then there was the demolition derby drive 20 miles or so back to Rt. 28 and Aunt Mary’s house. I did it with lock jawed determination and a solid belief in my ability to get through anything.

Several years ago Alice and I left Illinois with a map, cell phone and a GPS navigational system in our Honda mini-van. We drove to my friend’s home on Long Island. You have not really lived until you drive across the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey to New York and I-295 across the Throgs Neck Bridge and take the Cross Island Parkway down to Freeport. When I punched in the address for the Bronx Zoo two days later my comfort level was pretty high.  Navigating my way out of the Bronx and across Connecticut and Rhode Island I was feeling confident. The rest of the trip; Massachusetts, thru Boston, New Hampshire, back across Massachusetts, upstate New York, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois was a piece of cake. We had a wonderful time.

This summer I am taking a grandchildren trip to Washington State to attend Kyra Rose’s graduation ceremony and party. We are finalizing our plans next week when Jill, Sam and I take a trip to Kansas for a niece baby shower, a sister night at a Jeff Dunham concert and a 60th birthday party. There has been some discussion regarding who is going and how long we will be gone. We are going to work out the details and practice video blogging so you can come along on our adventure. We will keep you posted on trip details and itinerary.

And I was wondering what a Throg is anyway and does it really have a neck…………….

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved


Following My Path

If morning pages* are the threshing action to separate the chaff from the seeds of creativity, the artist date is winnowing the lighter chaff off the grain. In her book, The Artist Way, Julia Cameron gives us her basic tools for recovering creativity. Morning pages is the first basic tool. The second basic tool is the artist date.

The first time I embarked on The Artist Way path to recovering creativity, committing to morning pages was easier than making a commitment to the artist date.  Considering I learned shopping at my Grandmother Eleanor’s feet, library ambling with my mother and visiting local places of interest from my Grandmother Dorothy, I was surprised I found scheduling the artist date a challenge. The difference was spending time focusing on me.

Making an artist date meant finding a place where I wanted to be. I think women might find this more difficult than men. There are men in my life who disappear into any hardware, power tool, sporting goods, electronics or book store and do not reappear for several hours. My disappearance for several hours, simply to concentrate on myself, sounded decadent to me. What I discovered, as well as being a great artist tool, self decadence is a really good mental health tool

The artist date has been a part of my life for over sixteen years now. Whenever I begin to feel restless and empty inside, I immediately wonder, when was the last time I spent several hours alone at a destination of my choosing. Probably 2-3 times a month I find a way to make a date with myself.

My artist dates have been spent in a variety of places. Barnes and Noble is at the top of my list, all those books AND a Starbucks venti nonfat latte. Hobby Lobby is another really good place to find my inner creative self. Spending several hours walking at the local mall, checking out the latest fashion trends in clothing, shoes, home furnishing and smelling candles at the Yankee Candle store also works well for me.

The artist date experience gave me the freedom to arrive early or stay late when traveling to other cities for conferences and conventions. By myself, I have visited Betsey Ross’s home in Philadelphia, the National Botanical Gardens, National Gallery of Art, walked the National Mall to the Washington Monument and Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House back to the US Capitol Building in Washington D.C.

Alone, I took a tour bus to George and Martha’s place on the Potomac River and discovered the Revolutionary War Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Alexandria, VA. In Savannah, GA, I spent the whole day walking around the historic district and hanging out on the Savannah River. Walking down Peachtree Street in Atlanta, GA, and visiting the Margaret Mitchell House where she wrote Gone With The Wind was a powerful experience for me.

Schedule your own artist date with yourself and let me know how it works out…………..

*Creating My Path, January 18, 2011 post

©2011 Susan Kendall.  All rights reserved